#876 VR for Good: ‘Tripp’ Gamifying Meditation & Exploring New Corporate Wellness Distribution Channels

Tripp is a VR toolkit to gamify meditation in order to help you self-regulate and perform better. They had a really interesting strategy of bootstrapping the company by targeting corporate wellness clients, which allowed them to create a production pipeline of generative art that is a lot more abstract and novel than a typical mindfulness app.

Tripp also has a heavy emphasis on assessment and creating approaches to customize and tune content for their users. They started as a B2B business, but have also been expanding onto consumer VR headsets having launched on the Go and Quest in 2019.

I had a chance to catch up with CEO Nanea Reeves at the Games for Change Conference where we talked about Tripp’s founding story, why they initially launched with the Daydream headsets, their approach to generative art, the role of biosensors and biometric data for assessment, and some of their future plans. Eventually they’ll be creating experiences to cultivate flow states, but they’re starting with interday and intraday content that’s focused on calming and relaxation.

I’m super impressed with Tripp, and the seem to have found a winning strategy that’s going to allow them to grow and expand into creating technology that’s going to allow users to become more mindful, relaxed, self-regulated, and perfomant.


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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So continuing on in my series of looking at the VR for Good experiences, today's episode is with the Naya Reeves of Trip. So Trip is one of the most innovative companies that I see out there in the VR space. They're doing a lot of really interesting things. So Trip is kind of like a meditative app where you go in and have different relaxing experiences. So it was kind of born out of like having a stall in the consumer market. And so Nenea Reeves was early investor in Oculus, comes from the games industry and wanted to find a way to try to gamify different aspects of meditation and make it accessible for people in a way that could be used as a part of employment wellness. She actually was originally deploying Daydream out. I'm not sure now that Daydream's kind of essentially been discontinued, if she's going to continue to deploy on Daydream and eventually get into other headsets like the Quest or whatnot, but they're kind of platform agnostic. But originally they started with the Daydream, which is a whole other thing we dive into here. but they're able to change up these different experiences, give people these relaxing meditative experiences, but they have this business model that is the whole corporate wellness, to be able to license things out. They actually have like a consumer version that had been out originally on the go and now it recently came out on the Quest as well, and so you can subscribe to getting these updates. You can try out the demo, but then to get recurring updates of the content, then you actually become a subscribing member of it in order to get the full breadth of the different content. So lots of different applications here in terms of relaxation and medical applications. This conversation happened at the XR for Change and Games for Change conference. And, you know, as I was thinking about this series, I was pulling together the VR for Good. There's so many different applications and experiences and interviews that I could pull into this from the medical field and from the education field. But this in particular, I think, stands out just because there's a release on the consumer VR. So you can actually download it and try it out on Oculus Quest. And I think I really enjoy what she's doing with her company. So anyway, That's a big prologue into diving into Trip and what they're doing and so get the full story of Nenea and where they're going as a company on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast So this interview with Nenea happened on Tuesday, June 18th 2019 at the Games4Change conference in New York City, New York So with that let's go ahead and dive right in

[00:02:30.037] Nanea Reeves: Hi, my name is Nanea Reeves and I'm CEO of Trip. And Trip is a VR toolkit that is focused on helping you self-regulate and perform better throughout your day.

[00:02:44.559] Kent Bye: So maybe you can give me a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.

[00:02:50.263] Nanea Reeves: Oh, sure. I have worked primarily in the video game industry for a long time, have run technology initiatives that, you know, sometimes I'll find myself being the only female. in the room, and I found during that time that my meditation practice was really helpful to not be so reactive in my life. And it was something I had actually learned very early on in a moment of crisis as an adolescent. I had a therapist teach me how to meditate, and I really do think it's in many ways has saved my life. I was able to have the good fortune of being an early investor in Oculus. I worked with the founding CEO, Brendan, at a company called Gaikai that ended up being bought by Sony to power the PlayStation Now. Cloud gaming, we were way ahead of our time with that, and it got me really excited about the VR space. It was a little bit after trying the first demo of the Crescent Bay that I brought my husband down to try it and he got diagnosed with cancer and he passed away very quickly. And I found myself at this impasse in life, unexpected, with this unusual clearing that made me really realize that I had no accountability to anyone but myself at this stage, and what do I want to do with it? And so I thought about all of the learnings that I've gained in the video game industry, and saw the benefit and the impact of my mindfulness practice, and thought, how can we take the immersion of VR and hack mindfulness? That was our original goal.

[00:04:36.397] Kent Bye: And so you are here today at the Games for Change Festival, where you just gave a talk summarizing all the different things that you're doing in this space of bringing mindfulness and hacking mindfulness and bringing it into corporations. So maybe you could talk a bit about the company in terms of what are you creating in terms of products, and then where are those going right now?

[00:04:56.380] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, it was interesting for us because we saw the slow adoption of the VR consumer as an opportunity to innovate because we thought, well how are we going to get people to use this product? One, so we can evolve the AI behind it that generates the experiences and we can talk a little bit about what we've actually built and the plumbing of it. So we thought, well, let's go into corporations as an employee wellness offering and help insert this little micro escape that can be like a reset button throughout your day. And we found it was just the right time to bring that message and that offering into corporations. And we started to ship that product, multi-user installations in December. and since then we've turned on five customers, enterprise customers, and now we're starting to scale out with two of them into broader deployments, and we're also live in two clinics, and so we're just starting to get these units out there and get people using it. It's been a real joy, and it gives us the opportunity to get a constant feedback loop from a very active audience.

[00:06:14.275] Kent Bye: Yeah, so I just had a chance to do the demo here after seeing your talk here at Games4Change and on, actually, the Google Daydream, the Novo Mirage, which I don't see a lot of Daydreams that are out there. So we can talk about that. But my specific experience was that it was very calming. It felt like a lot of the meditation apps that I've seen take a very, almost literal, like you're on a beach. but it feels like there's something about what you're doing here which is the novelty of doing different shapes and moving through spaces that has this more symbolic representation of these different environments that are more interesting to look at but can capture my attention but it's not going to be like you said that it's like changing every day and so you have this sort of generative aspect to it. But also the visualization of the breath was interesting because I did an experience in London at the Saatchi Gallery called We Live in an Ocean of Air by Marshmello Laserfeast and they had actual like using the microphone to be able to depict the air molecules in this very sophisticated fluid dynamics and that was probably the most amazing, sophisticated representation of my breath that I've seen. And even in that experience, it's like more of an art gallery setting, I was able to play with and pay attention to my breath. And in this experience, I feel like it's a little bit more of a canned animation that is focused there, but it was still enough of an entrainment guide to allow me to focus on the breath in a way that it gave me a visual representation of what was happening in my body to the point where it was kind of like just training my body to get into the certain meditative state. And I felt like it was able to take me from being tense to being a lot more calm and focused after it.

[00:07:53.221] Nanea Reeves: Well, thank you. I'm glad you had that experience. We've seen a consistent response to it. The experience you tried is focus, and it's designed to stimulate your attention to be present and shut down a little bit of the noise and the activity in the default mode network of your brain. We're in the process of validating that right now. We directionally know that we've got some indicators that seem to think that we're effectively making changes, but we're not going to make any claims until we have real validation and working closely with people like Walter Greenleaf. and others to ensure that we're working on the right research tracks to be able to really measure what's happening. But in the breadth that you mentioned, we're very excited about this next wave of devices that will integrate biosensors. into the devices themselves where we can get a really good read of your breath. You know, interestingly enough, on a lot of these mobile devices and stand-alones, the breath has been filtered out so you don't have heavy breathing when you're chatting or voice chatting in games or talking in general. So that needs to be modified a little bit to actually capture your own breath.

[00:09:12.438] Kent Bye: So let's talk a little bit about using the Daydream. So why did you choose to deploy on the Daydream?

[00:09:17.563] Nanea Reeves: That's a great question. When we go into corporations, we had to really provide a high level of service and availability. And the Daydream, the Lenovo, leveraged a lot of the Android features that allow you to have full MDM capability or full management. and access to the device in field. So I can pull up a dashboard and see battery levels at every location and push executables and update the product in field. We really needed that and a lot of the other stand-alones weren't quite ready for that full capability, but we're platform agnostic. We built it in Unity and our consumer version will also support Oculus Go very shortly.

[00:10:04.953] Kent Bye: So the quieting of the default mode network, and listening to a book by Michael Pollan, he's talking about the different psychedelics of how there is this turning off of the default mode network, which is in some ways described as ego disillusionment or quieting down the chatter of the mind. But what is the default mode network doing? And are you able to perhaps modulate that just through the visual depiction of what's being put into the brain?

[00:10:29.307] Nanea Reeves: Well, I'm definitely not a neuroscientist, and I think that people like Walter Greenleaf and Skipper can speak more accurately on the subject, but the way that it's been described to me by people like them is it's more the conductor that's facilitating all the transactions. And when you do psychedelics or you go to sleep, it tends to shut down in ways where sometimes the lunatics are running around the asylum, right? But for us, what we wanted to do was just insert this little break and train the individual to take the time to connect to themselves throughout the day. And just that aspect is something that's incredibly hard to do with just traditional meditation tactics. The immersion of VR really helps make that happen. You cannot If we're actively engaging you with the environment and different sound frequencies and even gameplay mechanics, it's very difficult to think about anything else that's going on in your life. And so you can imagine being highly agitated or even at a conference that's loud. being able to go in, maybe you have some awareness, but eventually it starts to, you're just present. And that, I've been told, by people can have a positive effect on your vagus nerve, and so there's a health benefit from it as well.

[00:11:55.931] Kent Bye: Yeah, you were talking about the vagus nerve in your talk a little bit. What is the vagus nerve and what is the other things that happen there?

[00:12:01.596] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, so it's one of the largest nerves in your body that your organs branch off of. And it can be stimulated manually in the brain. but it can also be activated by pictures and images that some people call it the Oprah nerve and you definitely feel it in your chest when you see pictures of people helping other people or small animals. It's a response that we have and it's incredibly, compassion is very important. and healing for your own self. And I've had to learn just in my own journey how to take the time to give compassion to myself before I'm even able to give to other people without feeling depleted. Do you know that? It's this cycle. So that's some of the design that choices that we've made in Trip is to help start that process of connection. And that at the end when you saw what we call the amazeballs with the images, you can upload that from the mobile phone from your own life. So giving you that sense of connection to your own life experience. I think we get so disconnected even just by being busy or caretaking for others.

[00:13:15.120] Kent Bye: Yeah, and being here at the Games4Change conference and talking to different people about transformational experiences, there seems to be a strong emphasis on assessment, being able to quantify or to have some sense of whether or not what you're doing is working. And so there seems to be, within Trip, built into it, a way to have people self-report the before and after. And so maybe you could talk a bit about what assessments that you're doing and what you've been able to find so far.

[00:13:41.023] Nanea Reeves: Yes, we integrated in the experience a 10-point scale and also a modified scale. It's called the STI-6 scale. It's a Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Index, I think is what it stands for. We had some guidance from the National Mental Health Innovation Center at the University of Colorado that Walter works with. And we have web-based views in our experiences that allow us to populate these scales. So each trip type can have its own scale as well that we can integrate. For instance, if we do one that's transcendent, there's an awe scale that Giuseppe Riva has validated that we could integrate into that. So it's been really amazing to get the data in real time because if you think about it in basic, Therapy it's usually collected on a weekly basis manually on a scale of one to ten. How did you feel this weekend? Do you know and so just even having the user report in the experience on a regular basis has given us interesting data to look at and then our mobile app will also prompt them a couple times a day to ask how they're feeling. That was an idea from Walter so that we could get data outside of the experience as well and start to map that to the session data. So what we've seen with that is we measure a session lift right now and we're getting a little more calculated on what we're calling an inner fitness score. And so it'll take all those inputs per session and per day, but then we want to look at your starting mood over time and see if there's any increase in impact on what you're feeling and reporting.

[00:15:35.870] Kent Bye: And during your talk, you held up your finger and said that you've been tracking your sleep. And so maybe you could talk a bit about what you've been finding.

[00:15:42.038] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, well, it's been interesting. I've been tracking my sleep with Aura, the Aura Ring. And I've noticed just even my boyfriend and I are competitive sleeping. When we wake up, it's like, what's your sleep score, right? But I think even just the granularity of seeing the analysis on percentage of my sleep spent in REM versus deep sleep versus light sleep and then all the times that I'm awake, having that awareness has made me more focused on an optimal sleep time. commitment to make up on my sleep when it's been a low score day for me the night before and so I'm consciously going I want to make up for some of that time and we want to do the same with your moods and your sense of resiliency. How do we quantify and measure that? And I think that having the awareness of that will help us self-regulate more in the same way that I've seen a behavior change in in my own sleeping patterns just by having exposure to the data.

[00:16:47.929] Kent Bye: And so what kind of sensors are going to be made available for you that you're going to be able to start to then integrate more features in the next generations of headsets?

[00:16:57.130] Nanea Reeves: So one big change will be the eye-tracking lenses. If we can get them to the granularity where we can get pupillometry data, there's a vast data set that we can map to on stress, cognitive load, as well as some emotional reactions just through pupil changes. Pupillometry data is pretty well-evolved, and it also is something you can't control. No matter how skilled you are, it's an immediate response. Even just attention and focus and how that might change when you notice things in our experience at different times a day, we can see reaction times and maybe infer something from that. Then you look at companies like MindMaze and what they're doing with their mask. I tried it in Lausanne and it was very interesting. Getting a clean pulse right here above my eyebrows, you know, for heart rate and heart rate variability without having someone be troubled with syncing their wearables so we could get that in real time. You could potentially see GSR, galvanic skin response, sensors. There's a microphone that's more optimized for respiratory rate that will be much cleaner than what we get from going into the devices mic that's inherent to it. So I think the gasket is a really good opportunity. I'm very excited about that product getting into more and more devices out there. Because of the nature of our experience being procedural, we can adapt it to those biosignals in real time. And one of the shortcomings from some of the wearable data is we can't get a real-time feed into the experience, but we can map the session data and heart rate and then feed it back to you in a score.

[00:18:49.724] Kent Bye: I see. So it sounds like that you're talking about like MindMaze is like doing like medical applications, like mostly creating those VR headsets for medical applications, but are you also talking about like the potential next iteration of consumer VR as well?

[00:19:03.758] Nanea Reeves: I would love that because I think a great deal of innovation will come out of being able to generate a trip experience based on bio signals. I mean, it would just be amazingly fun to see that. And you see the impact of just even being able to visualize your own breath and how that gets you consciously aware of how you're breathing and the patterns. And if we can create environmental changes in our experiences based on that, it could be very powerful.

[00:19:35.118] Kent Bye: I think it's going to be incredibly powerful. Also, with great power comes great responsibility. My fear is that with these companies that are now modern consumer technology companies that have a business model of surveillance capitalism, compared to these medical applications like maybe a mind maze it may be under a little bit more of a medical context or something like the trip where you're creating these corporate mindfulness and wellness applications but I guess my concern is is that once you start to open up the floodgate of the next iteration of these headsets which I do expect to see more either eye tracking or galvanic skin response or heart rate variability like these different aspects of our biometric data that are actually very intimate in terms of what's happening and I think it's very powerful to be able to process that in real time but also potentially very dangerous to be able to start to capture and hoard and correlate that data into what's happening in the experience to be able to then mine that for many decades and generations to be able to create this psychographic profile of ourself that then how is that being used and who owns that data. So I guess that's my concern with the future of where this is going, and I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on biometric data privacy.

[00:20:49.265] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, well, I mean all data, right? We've seen good actors and bad actors with it, and it's incredibly important for ethics boards and committees to be involved, especially when you introduce AI into the mix as well, right? So at minimum, when we do data collection that involves any kind of biometric data, there's a separate opt-in. It actually varies by state because there are state differences in how and who you can collect biometric data from. So anybody working in this space has to work with legal counsel and ensure that their product is designed to capture that biometric data. And then, of course, you want to be globally compliant. We have international customers, so we're GDPR compliant. We had the benefit of being able to design our data environment now. HIPAA compliance, you have to make sure as you go into clinical settings, you know, so there's a lot of data harbor considerations that any company doing this with goals to do it at scale have to be mindful of. We are involved in some of those ethics committees, setting some of the standards and working with Platform, the Neuroscience and Research Committee as well, and we want to stay looped in. Our goal is not to do anything harmful, and so we won't ever integrate advertising into our experience because it is such an intimate interaction, just even getting someone into a relaxed state. I feel very strongly about that. I've had some big arguments about it. So I think that it's really going to be set by our leadership team and our choices. But as an industry as a whole, it's really important that we work with regulation. This confluence of technology companies and the medical community, even in this area of digital therapeutics, these ideas that we've grown up with as tech entrepreneurs to move fast and break things, doesn't work when you're dealing with someone's emotional well-being. And so we want to be mindful of that, but we don't know what we don't know. And so rolling out in small, chunks, doing real active research, which we're doing right now, working with people who are more knowledgeable than we are on these committees, I think is really important. I don't want to end up in an HBO documentary. I mean, we've seen that mindset get companies, you know, with a lot of promise into trouble. And some of that, I think, is just a nature of being a venture-backed company sometimes, too. You know, you have to be able to pace in a responsible manner.

[00:23:39.088] Kent Bye: I'd love to dive in a bit more into the back end in terms of the AI and the generative nature because it did seem like that you were able to Create something that was very novel and that I've imagined that you were trying to create something that wasn't the same So it would create this, you know in the neuroscience perspective there's the predictive coding model of the brain where you're sort of have an expectation and then you're sort of doing a check versus what you expect and what you're experiencing and that when you're seeing something new and novel you're able to have a lot of you know immersion into experiencing something for the first time and I feel like there's an approach that you're taking which is trying to Maintain that novelty in some way. So I'm just curious how you're achieving that

[00:24:18.424] Nanea Reeves: Well, we started to experiment with VR by making a solitaire game, because every good platform needs a good solitaire game. And so we did that for fun. We just made a trip solitaire game. And we noticed, wow, people love this game, but they're not playing it that much. And what is that lack of repeat usage? And when we talked to the platforms, we saw, in general, it's inherent to VR. People go, wow, that was amazing. Do they come back to it and do it frequently? We're seeing some applications get that, but as an industry as a whole, it's been a challenge. So when we started out with the goal of Let's Design Trip, we had a very specific goal of it has to be different every time you do it. So we can at minimum get the, oh, I wonder what it'll be like next. And so we have what we call inter-day variability and intra-day variability. So we created a framework. Every trip type is a frame of what we call armatures or little containers. then and every night we drop a new trip load down of assets that include sound frequencies, bundled art and different visual assets and so it'll change dramatically on a daily basis and then throughout the day There's unique composition. There's also lighting changes that will sync with your local time of day, just so that it's fresh, especially if you're going to do it more than once a day, which we've seen some of our users doing. So that was by design, but also because it's created procedurally. It allows us to leverage machine learning to eventually build a recommendation engine that will predict what Kent might respond to at this time of day more positively than what I'll respond to at the same time of day. That's our ultimate goal. Right now, that's still in its infancy. We're analyzing different patterns of different cohorts and time of day responses through those data assessment tools that we have in the app and the asset bundles and the session information. We're starting to learn what's getting a higher response than something else. And that's been really informative in optimizing our own art pipeline.

[00:26:48.262] Kent Bye: And I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about the sound design and whether or not you're using something like binaural beats and if you're trying to do some additional levels of brain entrainment and if you're trying to match the audio entrainment to like visual entrainment in some ways.

[00:27:01.148] Nanea Reeves: The experience that you tried, Justin Barretta from The Glitch Mob is our creative director, so he's been doing our soundscapes and our focus trip that you tried has some indications of binaural audio, but it's not as aggressive because it has a dissonant Sound to it and it took a little more crafting and so we indicated some of it but really started to look at just music that you know all music has an emotional effect on people and so Justin took some liberties with the design of that first trip that you had but our second trip which is calm and goes straight into binaural audio as a payload. So the whole experience is about breath and levitation. And as you go from one level to the other and you lift, there's a binaural audio reward that's targeting theta, and then you can also opt in for delta. wave reaction that you might do as a sleep preparation. So we're experimenting with that. We haven't measured the impact of that with any other kind of physiological tests, but we will as soon as it's finished. It should be finished in two weeks.

[00:28:18.593] Kent Bye: Well, what type of anecdotal feedback have you been receiving from TRIP?

[00:28:22.297] Nanea Reeves: Well, people love it, which has been amazing. We have an 81-year-old man in Honolulu who's our favorite customer. He's one of our home beta testers because we just wanted to see, would someone elderly in a compromised health position, he has stage 4 liver cancer, the same thing my husband passed away from, Would he be able to just facilitate the tech and use the experience? So we gave him a device after he tried it and insisted on taking it from me, and he's been using it since November two or three times a day to help. He feels it helps him with his cancer pain as a distraction, and I think there's a lot of research available of the use of VR, not TRIP specifically, in the area of pain management. We've anecdotally seen his response. He also had a very powerful reaction to seeing his own life images integrated into the experience. And so I think ultimately you may see us do more clinical focused catalog offerings that will be in palliative care or pain management. In general, we see an average session lift that's self-reported of around 24 to 28 percent on any given day and that's meaningful to us and people have the perception that it's helping them. One of the companies we're most excited about using our product is a content moderation company that is their workforce trains AI to detect you know some of the worst content representing humanity and they're exposed to it all day long and you know technically they're actually doing a service for all of us so we don't have to see that stuff in our feed and they've responded very positively to Trip so hopefully one day I can talk about that in more detail but it's been really meaningful to us as a team to see people like the man in Hawaii and workforces, you know, who are supporting all of us in the background benefit from it.

[00:30:31.694] Kent Bye: Yeah, this concept of a life review is pretty intriguing and fascinating because you're looking at photos from your life and like what's the theory behind why that would be so compelling?

[00:30:40.675] Nanea Reeves: We were trying to make it more about a connection. We were so disconnected from our own life experience by just our task list that if you take the time to actually immerse and just be present, one of the things we wanted to facilitate was can we get you connected to your own journey. Knowing that that might make you ask yourself some different questions, much like how I found myself asking, you know, what am I going to do with my life? We've seen some interesting variations on that. Somebody who works for us around New Year's had uploaded motivational images, kind of like their own new vision board for the year. And I did it on the anniversary of my husband's passing. I did it and I found it gave me like a container to express some emotion even that was included gratitude for our own journey together in a way that was more in my own control and then I could go about my day. So it was like I was creating the space for myself with it.

[00:31:45.813] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's almost like a new grieving ritual of being able to create new rituals.

[00:31:50.635] Nanea Reeves: And it just came from enabling that tool, that ability in our mobile app that we're starting. So I would love eventually once we open it up for consumers to see how they experiment with that. And we integrated a little feature. We haven't really published it or publicly talked about it too much, but you can share your images with other people's trips. So if I'm in my trip experience and I see an image that's not from my life, the mobile app will say, oh, Kent in the community donated his dog image to your trip. And I can thank you. Of course, we do all the filtering for all the bad stuff coming from the games industry we've seen. Anything that you can enable, they will really do the worst thing with it.

[00:32:37.960] Kent Bye: Well, I'm curious to hear a little bit more about the medical applications, because I saw the experience of the corporate wellness. But I would imagine that there's going to be a lot of applications for medical context. So where do you see Trip is going to be starting to either already be deploying these experiences within a medical context, and where do you hope to see it go in the future?

[00:32:57.912] Nanea Reeves: Our primary focus is on this B to B to C model. We are doing some clinical deployments, mostly in the context of research as well, so that we can get some data back from a third party. And we'll talk about a little bit of those more publicly. We have one on organizational stress that just started running right now, another one on treatment-resistant depression, and addiction recovery, which is super meaningful to me, having lost a sister to drug overdose. So we see that as a good data feedback loop to us to see if we're directionally doing what we think we're doing. We are starting some conversations with in the medical arena But you know, it's a much longer term focus area There are a lot of companies primarily focused on that and we're very inspired by their actions and their research is incredibly Informative to even our own design choices. So we're very friendly with everyone in the community I think because we're all kind of pioneering the space right now. I think we're still in the very early big clunky device, you know, if you parallel it to mobile phone, we're still in that big clunky phone stage that everybody laughs when they see that image show up in the conference, right?

[00:34:23.257] Kent Bye: Well, I'm curious to hear a little bit more about the name Trip because, you know, I just recently went to the Consciousness Hacking Awakened Futures Summit, which is looking at the intersection between psychedelics and immersive technologies and meditation. And so there seems to be a confluence of the psychedelic research that's happening from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a lot of the studies that are happening there. But also like the role of immersive technologies either helping prepare people for these psychedelic journeys or coming out of psychedelic journeys. But there seems to be a big part of the psychedelic underground and psychedelic culture that is influencing what is happening with virtual reality technologies in general. But just curious to hear a little bit more about the name of Trip and its connection to the psychedelic culture.

[00:35:09.348] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, well, it really sprang not from that intentionally, but it definitely has influenced us. It came more from whenever we saw anybody do VR, they would take it off and they go, well, that was a trip, right? And then we started to think of the concept of a journey within and really making it about that. In many ways, that is what a psychedelic journey does to you. I'm very interested in that whole arena. You read Michael Pollan's book and it's amazing, you know, the progress and the richness of the data. When I've shown Tripp to people in that community, they've talked to us about concepts of preparing someone who's never done psychedelics but needs the treatment. They can often have a lot of anxiety on their first few sessions until they get more comfortable with the concept of letting go and it actually impacts the quality of that session if they're resistant to the experience. So could you use experiences like ours or others that could help prepare someone for this idea of a different reality? overlay. And then what is the take-home therapy in those sessions? Right now a lot of it's the music playlist that you had in the session that you know is your take-home therapy. Could VR be used in ways that could connect to that experience? You know you take five to ten minutes of for our session and connect the person to a VR experience that they can do more regularly than they could psychedelic. I think those are interesting applications. We're not focused on that right now, but what I'm excited about is our development roadmap. Could we experiment? with different reality overlays on a fully conscious mind, you know, and create new variations of that that don't replace the psychedelic experience but augment some of the benefits of it in different ways, you know, to trigger more transformative thoughts, you know, and how you're looking at your own journey, your own life, your experience with yourself. I will say that we've been so hyper-focused in this industry on simulation, and Tripp made a conscious choice to focus on stimulation. And we had this hypothesis that if you were simulating an environment with missing senses, that it would actually put the brain on kind of an uncanny valley, high alert response, like, what's wrong with this environment? Doesn't smell like a beach? You know, the camera's too high and this voice is telling me to sit down and relax. And, you know, all these things that I think we thought were the wrong approach. That if we could put you in an environment that has some familiarity to objects, but not direct reference points that you could relax into it more. So that was our approach.

[00:38:21.197] Kent Bye: Yeah, I totally agree and I sense that because a lot of the other meditation apps do take that like real simulation approach and I don't ever find them all that compelling, but this was more of a symbolic, poetic, visual interpretation that was much more interesting to look at, but also being able to change it, but also see some thread of a connection to the psychedelic culture through the elements of visionary art whether it's like sacred geometry or different aspects of mandalas that you're flying through and so I feel like there's like some real influence of these esoteric traditions that are impacting the different art styles and the symmetry and mandalas and art that I'm seeing there.

[00:38:58.588] Nanea Reeves: And that was based on, we had done, I think we had read a report, and I can't remember where it came from, on there's a calming aspect to fractals and geometry that has a calming effect on the mind. And that maybe the reason why we see those shapes as well under a psychedelic experience is it's the brain trying to stabilize itself with that. And so we took that approach that geometry and shapes would have a pleasing effect on the person because it's kind of like patterns and order.

[00:39:40.327] Kent Bye: Yeah. It's a whole symbolic translation.

[00:39:42.948] Nanea Reeves: Yeah. It was definitely a choice. And you can see probably in the future, especially in our consumer app, we'll experiment more with transformative experience. I know people like Justin Beretta have been wanting to unleash on that. With corporations, our real goal is can we just insert a mindful break that allows you to just put pause on any kind of stress or agitation you might be experiencing and start to make better choices for yourself. We could see that as a real immediate opportunity, but I want to experiment with, can we give you also the tools to start designing the experience in a way that helps you experience things differently? Consciously. Yeah.

[00:40:30.932] Kent Bye: Yeah, you were talking also about flow and flow states and how it's like this ratio between the skill and the challenge. And I see something like Beat Saber as like this game that's really optimized towards trying to cultivate these deep flow states. But at the same time, it requires like a full active participatory expression of agency to the skill is this highly active embodied action that you're using your full body on. It's like exercise. And that for me is like the deepest flow states that I achieve. And so in this experience, there's a little bit of like, there's a bird that's flowing around and you're, you're trying to like, you're moving around, but it's not necessarily like all that challenging. And I don't necessarily feel like I was in a flow state. I feel it was interesting because it was like, it was engaging and interesting to a certain extent, but yet I wouldn't classify that as deep flow. So I'm just curious to hear where you see taking flow in the future with trips.

[00:41:24.156] Nanea Reeves: Yeah, I definitely don't think we trigger flow state in the current experience. We're using gameplay mechanics just to bring your attention present, but it's an area we really want to focus on. In the game industry, we definitely have looked at that mechanic of flow for a long time. I think some of the early adopters since the 90s, you know, we've really looked at that as a design mechanic. Because if a game is not balanced well in that skill challenge ratio, if it's too hard, it's not fun. And if it's too easy, it's not fun. So we have a lot of understanding of how to create experiences. that leverage that aspect and have certainly done it in our careers in the past. So you'll see some experiences that might be targeting more energy states or performance, high performance, where we're going to really lean in on that. But we haven't produced an experience yet that I would say triggers flow. But it's on our roadmap for sure. We want to calm people down right now.

[00:42:36.036] Kent Bye: So for you, what are some of the either biggest open questions that you're trying to answer or open problems you're trying to solve?

[00:42:44.603] Nanea Reeves: Well, the biggest thing is how do we get scale, mostly just tactically so that we can train our recommendation engine to start generating experiences to the individual. That requires a certain amount of scale and with slower adoption in the industry and device install base, you know, it's a bit challenging and for us that's opened up some innovation for us to think about how do we get to market. I think that this idea of how the catalog evolves to becoming the self-regulation toolkit that goes beyond just mindfulness structures and inserting that pause in your day that is supportive to you. That's what I'm most excited about is how we take this framework now that we've built and start to just get better and better. And the more people who use it, the better it's going to get and our catalog will expand. But then I would like to eventually see us expose our toolkits more to the end users, so they can start to create their own experiences. And it can be, you know, much in the same way we've seen people be creative with just opening up the Amazeballs tool to them, that I'm excited to expose more of the tools. But really it's just... Staying focused on this concept of it being a tool that you can use to optimize how you feel throughout the day. That's really what we're trying to accomplish and we want to do it responsibly and we want to do it with measurement and the ability to make certain claims which we're not at just yet.

[00:44:28.575] Kent Bye: I would ask a question about surveys and in the context of presence research, a lot of people in the VR community have studied presence. They don't put a lot of weight in terms of surveys of self-report because they don't feel like your sense of presence could necessarily be Determined by a number in that way and I don't know if it's different for a mood and emotion Maybe it's a little bit different than the sense of presence versus your mood But I'm curious to see if in the future you might move to more Passive biometric markers to be able to assess people that more biometric data matched with the phenomenology in some way But that you know, it feels like there's some Limits, I mean, maybe it's like you report and maybe that creates a self-fulfilling placebo effect But you know, I think in some research circles There's a bit of hesitation or skepticism about how far those self-report numbers could take you and

[00:45:19.835] Nanea Reeves: I agree with that. Our research experts, they all use self-reporting, but obviously the Holy Grail is having physiological data and then also being able to observe behavioral changes, right? That's the three legs you want to get. Self-reported data is important and oftentimes it's the only tool that you have for pain management, you know, where it becomes subjective to the individual. It's really the only thing that we have, right? But when you talk to people, how are they measuring then?

[00:45:53.941] Kent Bye: Well, I think in some ways presence is like one of those open questions that nobody really has a good answer for because it's like, it's a bit of like unquantifiable. So I guess it's how much are we talking about a qualitative experience that we're trying to quantify? But then even when you ask the question, how are you feeling? It changes how you feel in that moment.

[00:46:12.669] Nanea Reeves: And sure, absolutely. So when we look at our own development, we look at existing research. And we make some assumptions and we prototype it. And then in our Chicago office, we have a neural bowl set up with dry EEG on the back of the head on the HTC Vive with the eye tracking data. And we capture all of that and we look at, are we directionally doing anything from those reads? We'll have 20 people come through it. you know, during like a little open house and they can try these little prototyped experiences and we'll tune our design based on that. And then once we go live, though, we have third party studies that we can participate in where they'll take biometric reads, but mostly before and after. It's hard to get stuff in real time during, outside of heart rate variability. So I'm excited about these devices that will have the lens. eye-tracking lenses, if they're at a granular enough level where we can get the pupil data, that'll be some data that we can start to get. And the more bio-signals we can get in these devices where we can get real-time feeds, that's going to be the most important for us. We're hopeful. Right now, the self-reporting interface at least lets us know directionally how the person feels by it. But again, we're not making any claims with it other than just getting it out and getting people to use it and putting some assessment in it.

[00:47:47.987] Kent Bye: In the president's research, it's difficult because you're trying to put a number to something that happened in the past. But I think in this case, I did feel like a qualitative shift that felt relatively better. So I feel like if I quantify what I'm feeling before and I do it again afterwards, it's more of a ratio and trying to pinpoint, do I feel better after doing this? And I feel like that's probably something that people would be able to determine. But I also, there's a part of me that's like, well, maybe how much can they really know how much they're shifting?

[00:48:16.107] Nanea Reeves: I agree with you. I want more data, right? Because we can do more if we know more. And so it keeps us humble. As I said, it at least directionally lets us know that people like this more than that. And that helps us optimize our pipeline and our creation. But it's really important for us to work with researchers. And we're inspired by what people out there in the community are doing. The report that Adam Ghazali just issued on his Meditrain app, it's incredible. And also just the way they constructed the whole validation of that product, I think, is a good framework.

[00:48:57.725] Kent Bye: Yeah, he was at the Awaken Future Summit talking about how they're on the roadmap of creating a FDA-approved experiential medicine video game. So a video game that's experiential medicine that's approved by the FDA.

[00:49:09.314] Nanea Reeves: I don't know if that's... For attention deficit disorder, yep. And I think they're in stage three now, or they're close to being approved, or if they haven't been approved already.

[00:49:20.930] Kent Bye: So it's like people can be prescribed a video game. It's like it's experiential based medicine. So the experience being medicine within itself, which I think is an amazing trajectory of where this is all going rather than

[00:49:31.358] Nanea Reeves: two mobile apps from Paratherapeutics that have received FDA approval for addiction recovery. Yeah, so it's coming and there's committees and organizations defining what that means for VR and how to structure the research and so we're definitely paying attention to all of that and self-reporting is a big assessment in that. It's one of them, right? But they're also taking physiological data as well.

[00:50:05.454] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality is and what it might be able to enable?

[00:50:14.628] Nanea Reeves: I think right now we're thinking about the devices too vertically. So I would like to see a more integrated device where immersion is just a modality that you opt into so that you can move seamlessly from just experiencing reality as it is, augmenting it, and then making a choice to immerse as needed. I think eventually we won't think of it as just a VR device in much the same way that we don't think of it as just a phone that calls, right? And then we go to our computer to compute. It's all become very integrated and so we need a form factor to be better. I think the advancement of not having dependency on lighthouse sensors has been huge because it's enabled companies like ours to go out into the field and make money with VR devices that are standalone and have very low friction. But I'm very excited about the integration of the, as I mentioned several times in this interview, biosensors. Because I think a tremendous amount of innovation is going to come out of having access to that data. Obviously, as you mentioned, we need to be responsible about it. So I think VR, whatever the device is that will deliver immersion, four years from now that's more comfortable on the head and allows me to also easily access augmented experiences, that's going to be the killer. We'll be right there.

[00:51:47.411] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to expand on that point there that you made, which is that this blending of immersion and how much that's going to be blended into reality. There's a phrase at the very end of one of your experiences that says, and now welcome back to reality, which you may return to reality when you're ready, which to me, I thought was funny, but also I had a problem with, because it implies that what I just experienced wasn't real and that there's a certain false dichotomy. I think that,

[00:52:16.375] Nanea Reeves: Good point. That is such a good point. I'm going to revisit that.

[00:52:20.716] Kent Bye: I think there might be a different way to phrase it, because you're kind of delegitimizing the experience I just had.

[00:52:26.518] Nanea Reeves: That is such a good observation. I never thought about that. But you're right, because it is a real experience.

[00:52:35.347] Kent Bye: I think that's the challenge of the name of virtual reality within itself is embedded. The implication of what your experience is, is not as real as reality. So we have this some, in some ways, if you put consciousness as this fundamental experience, then it could actually be that the phenomenal experiences you have in VR are actually more real than the experiences we have outside of VR. So you could actually flip it and say, you could argue if you're looking at it through the lens of consciousness and the modulation of consciousness, then yeah.

[00:53:05.296] Nanea Reeves: And, you know, I think about that use case I told you on the anniversary of my husband's death. That was a very real experience to me. And it was also very helpful. And I was experiencing my reality in that moment in a very meaningful way. And thank you for that. That was worth this whole thing. That was great.

[00:53:33.947] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[00:53:38.012] Nanea Reeves: No, I would just, nothing really other than I'm just excited by everything that this community is doing. We're all really pioneering. I think the support that I've received from within the community as well as the Kohak community, as well as been very meaningful to me as, you know, I try to do something that's deeply personal, but I'm very passionate about, and our whole team feels the same. And so just even as the leader of this company, I want to see this industry be successful and evolve so that I can ensure that the people who are building Trip are well supported, so that we can get more people using it.

[00:54:24.752] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. So thank you.

[00:54:28.613] Nanea Reeves: Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for that insight.

[00:54:31.993] Kent Bye: So that was Nenea Reeves of Trip, which is a VR toolkit, which is focused on helping you self-regulate and perform better. So I've a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, like I said at the top, Trip is a really impressive company just because I think they're, they're approaching it in really smart business sense. I mean, there has been a little bit of a stall in the consumer market. And so they found a way to actually start to be producing revenue by licensing out these different experiences to a number of different enterprise locations. And as they've been doing that, they've been able to kind of cultivate a whole backlog and their whole procedural and generative way of trying to change the experience, not only change it over the course of a day, the intraday, but also the interday change where they're downloading new assets and new experiences. Because I think that's a thing within these different meditative apps. If you just have the same environment and context, then there's not a lot of stuff that's really drawing you back in. So I really liked the gamified way that Nenea is thinking about things and coming from the games industry. You can really see this different aspects in what she thinks about this aspects of novelty and what makes it intriguing and interesting. And she's somebody who's also a lifetime meditator. And so she wants to see how VR can help amplify and make it easier for people to set a context for them to meditate. So a lot of different ways of feedback as you do this experience You have to give a little self-report at the beginning at the end I think relative to yourself as you start to evaluate your mood I think it's pretty consistent in terms of presence research It came up a couple times and the way that presence research actually does a lot of stuff. I'm talking to males later They'll try to give you the most present experience it can have and then it start to take things away and you have to like try to evaluate if you feel less present or more present. And so it's, again, relative, but then to try to use like present surveys and numbers, the present surveys across people doesn't add up as much, but I think maybe the mood across yourself, maybe have a little bit more consistency. So, because it's more of a trying to measure the difference between the beginning and the end. So they're trying to see on average, like 24, 28% increase of your mood. So I did have, actually, when I did the experience, it actually did make me feel a bit calmer. So I think there are these different qualitative aspects where you can start to use the surveys to be able to get at that. But like Linnea said, ideally, you'd have actually three different ways of looking at the surveys and getting that feedback, the different biosensors and biometric data to be able to have more information, and then also how to see how your behavior changes. And so I think there's tricky issues with the biosensors, I think, just around the privacy and the implications of the third party doctrine and where's the information going and You know, essentially if you're recording all this information, then it is accessible to the U S government to go to you and say, okay, what, what have your moods been? It starts to change the privacy implications of that. So I think there are challenges there, but I think there's clear benefit at the same time. I love experiences like this. Cause I think they're really trying to use the most exalted way of these biosensors, but. I do think that there are some deeper existential threats when it comes to biometric data privacy and where we're going in the future to come up with the different regulatory frameworks and conceits around how we navigate this world, where what used to be medical information is now going to be in the hands of these different private corporations. And once they get in the hands of the private corporations, then it changes the different legal boundaries around that and could start to be accessible by the government or potentially other people. But I think overall, I love this approach that they're doing. And right now they're not really doing anything that's trying to evoke explicitly these flow states because there's not a lot of like really challenging aspects of the games. The games are pretty calming. They're just trying to give you some ways of kind of moving your head around and give you a little bit something extra to do rather than just like meditating. But I wouldn't say that that's super challenging, but it's something on their roadmap and they're going to be looking at in the future as well. The subscription model is also really interesting model for content like this, because trying to keep the content fresh and engaging and keeping you coming back each and every day, I think is a key part for creating any type of consistency and novelty. And I feel like that's something a little bit different than what I've seen in a lot of other approaches take, which I think those approaches try to, you know, build out all these different immersive environments and maybe have, once they build it, it doesn't change or it's not very dynamic like this. And Trip just launched on the Oculus Quest back on December 19, 2019. So it's now available if you want to check it out. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a list to support a podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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